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Eye-watering rail fares hikes are 'pricing people out of work'

Commuters have been returning to work after the festive break facing “eye-watering” rail fares increases.

Prices have risen an average of 3.4%, with some commuter routes set for price hikes of more than £100.

According to analysis by the Labour party, the highest increase is on a Virgin Trains season ticket between Birmingham and London Euston, which will have risen by £2,539 since 2010 and now costs £10,567.

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The highest proportional rise was for annual season tickets between Tame Bridge Parkway, near Walsall, and Nuneaton, which costs 50% more now than in 2010 – from £1,948 to £2,916.

How the modes of transport compare (Source: RAC Foundation/ONS)

Campaigners said that many people were being “priced out of going to work” as protests were planned for 40 railway stations up and down the country.

London mayor Sadiq Khan – who has pledged to freeze all bus and tram fares and single pay-as-you-go fares on the Tube until 2020 – said: “It is simply not right that millions of rail passengers face eye-watering fare hikes today after suffering 12 months of delays, cancellations and disruption.

“Commuters have been hit with fare increases of around 5.5% in the last two years while their cost of living also continues to rise.

“It’s time for the government and private rail companies to step up and give the passengers the service they deserve at a price they deserve.”

Rising rail fares

Season tickets into London from Prime Minister Theresa May’s Maidenhead constituency are to rise by £104 to £3,092 and one from Liverpool to Manchester is going up by £108 to £3,152, with the average cost to increase by a third faster than wages this year.

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Last year, the average price hike was 2.3%, with season tickets into London terminals going up by £74, compared to £146 this year.

How UK commuters compare to Europe

Analysis by the Labour party showed the average season ticket would cost £2,888 – £694 more than in 2010 – a rise of more than 30%.

Andy McDonald, the shadow transport secretary, said fares had increased at a “truly staggering” rate, and had risen three times more quickly than wages since the Tories returned to power in 2010.

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Bruce Williamson, spokesman for campaign group Railfuture, said: “Fuel duty for motorists has been frozen for seven years now, but not rail fares, which have risen by more than 30% in that same period.

“People are being priced out of going to work.

“The government is showing undeniable bias against the rail traveller and driving people on to our ever more congested and polluted roads.”

Campaigners staged protests at 40 railway stations up and down the country, including here outside King’s Cross station in London (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

In separate research, the TUC said UK commuters were suffering in comparison to their European counterparts. It used the example of a season ticket to London from Chelmsford in Essex, which had risen to £381 a month – 13% of average London salaries.

In contrast, it said, a comparable commute of about 30 miles in France would cost 2% of an average salary, 3% in Italy, 4% in Germany and 5% in Belgium and Spain.

On the day that rail fares increase, passengers arrive at Waterloo Station in London (REUTERS/Peter Nicholls)

Passenger numbers have more than doubled since the network was privatised in the mid-1990s. But latest figures from the Office of Rail and Road show that passenger journeys fell by 0.4% between July and September compared with the same period in 2016.

And, the use of season tickets fell by 9.4% to its lowest level since 2010.

A Department for Transport spokesman said price rises were capped on most services to inflation and also that the government was investing in the “biggest modernisation of our railways since the Victorian times”.